September 29, 2008
Nemetschek North America Press Day Report: New Parasolid Software
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News
Nemetschek North America Press Day Report: New Parasolid Software
By Susan Smith

click to enlarge [ Click to Enlarge ]
Recently I attended a Press Day presented by Nemetschek North America in Baltimore, announcing their upcoming Vectorworks 2009 line of products. Nemetschek is not a “marketing” company, so to speak, in other words, the press don’t generally receive invitations to user group conferences, and we don’t receive many press releases from them. They are relatively quiet in the midst of an industry that clamors for airtime.

Not that Nemetschek doesn’t have anything to say – they do. The purpose of the visit to Baltimore was to hear the announcement that they are including Siemens PLM Parasolid engine as the new foundation for 3D in Vectorworks 2009. For those unfamiliar with Parasolid, it is a solid modeling engine made by Siemens’ PLM that is used by over 350 of the world’s software applications.

 Sean Flaherty
Sean Flaherty, CEO, Nemetschek North America
According to Sean Flaherty, CEO of Nemetschek North America, Vectorworks users are already 3D users, with rendering built into their products. They do have a separate product for rendering, Renderworks, whose sales they track for gauging advanced 3D usage. 49% of Vectorworks customers buy Renderworks. Although changing from the previous solid modeling engine to Parasolid is no small feat technically, Flaherty feels that the change is well worth it.

“The aerospace and automotive industries have been doing model based design for years,” Flaherty pointed out.

Backing up a bit, this announcement was preceded by the usual company information. Why we don’t hear much from Nemetschek was explained: Nemetschek is not known outside of Europe. The company has spent the past few years acquiring a lot of smaller companies. They now have a new logo and have consolidated into ten operating divisions.

click to enlarge [ Click to Enlarge ]
Design, build and manage are the sectors into which the products fall. Nemetschek did make a blip on the radar last year when they acquired Graphisoft, creators of the competing product, Archicad. In fact, Nemetschek owns three competing 3D modeling BIM products: Archicad, Vectorworks and Allplan. Rather than attempt to move users all over to one package, they elected to keep the product lines separate, and continue on the paths that have made them each successful within their own market space. Allplan is used strictly in Europe, Archicad competes with both Vectorworks and Allplan, Vectorworks only competes with Archicad.

With competing products within their own company, Nemetschek seems reasonably unconcerned about the competition, including that outside their company. And rightly so: with each version, about 40% of their users upgrade. Flaherty cited their distribution model as the reason their revenues aren’t as large as those of their competitors. Another interesting fact about Vectorworks is that it was a Macintosh only application for many years, and still remains a favorite among the Mac community.

This is another area that clearly differentiates Vectorworks: Vectorworks was “the most widely used Mac product in the AEC market with 75% of the market worldwide,” according to Flaherty. Although the percentage of Mac users fluctuates from year to year, he said that they are “heavier” with Mac users this year. Presentation graphics has been the #1 selling point for their products for the past five years.

Flaherty remarked that Vectorworks is a “pluralistic” company, which he believes is a differentiating strength from their competitors. All Vectorworks employees in the world report to him.

Nemetschek is over 40 years old, with 1150 employees worldwide in 17 countries. There are 270,000 customers in 142 countries. Financially, Flaherty cited growth through acquisition as a real strength, adding that “Vectorworks has close to tripled in size since its acquisition. We are on our way to beating last year’s numbers. $22 million is a possible projection.”

The Nemetschek product portfolio includes the following categories:
  • Design - Vectorworks products, Graphisoft, Allplan, Scia
  • Build – construction management division, products such as Glaser, and Auer
  • Manage
  • Multimedia
A quick view of Vectorworks history:

1985 - Vectorworks started out as MiniCAD
1991 - Diehl Graphsoft IPO
1996 - first cross-platform edition
1999 - Vectorworks Architects and Renderworks
2000 - acquired by Nemetschek AG, renamed Nemetschek North America
2001 – complete design series, Landmark, Spotlight, and Machine Design
2007 - Vectorworks 2008 introduction

The products:

Vectorworks Fundamentals is a basic package at $1295
Vectorworks Designer includes all four industry verticals – Architect, Landmark, Spotlight, and Machine Design and includes Renderworks photorealistic techniques for $2,895.

Most revenue is derived from design, Flaherty noted. Asia/Pacific is Vectorworks’ biggest market at 41%, with Europe a close second at 36%, North American market 22%, and other 1%.

Building design accounts for 69% of the Vectorworks customer base, with general design (characterized as machine design, boat design, exhibit design) 22%, theater lighting at 5%, and landscaping 5%. The Landmark product has only been out for four years but has enjoyed 35% growth in that time period.

“42% of our growth is from new users,” claimed Flaherty. “Experienced CAD customers are switching to Vectorworks.”

Now flash forward to the present moment:

Flaherty outlined Nemetschek’s recent product focus. The issues that plague the building industry have been explored by numerous software vendors and experts over the last few years. Various tools such as BIM have been developed to address this problem which is attributed to an interoperability problem.

Nemetschek has taken a closer look at BIM, to note that architects are not using it.
“Architects are not going to get paid more for using BIM,” said Flaherty. “The only way to adopt it is for them to see what good it does them. They don’t get paid more because it costs the owner less.” Until now, BIM has not added much to the conceptualization stage of the process, so why, indeed, would it interest architects?

What does work for architects is free form modeling, which has become one of Vectorworks’ key strengths in the marketplace, particularly in the AEC space, Flaherty noted. Free form shapes then make modeling more complex, but to represent this cutting edge architecture, BIM is needed.

Architects want a corporate lobby to impress clientele. In order to get to BIM, Flaherty sees a 3D maturity curve, starting with 2D only, moving to 3D conceptualization or visualization, then to integrated design and development, then model-centric BIM.

At the integrated design and development stage, “You are using 3D for most of your design development and you become more efficient at this stage. We would like to see most people getting here,” said Flaherty.

Barriers to 3D use
  • Modeling limitations
  • 3D speed and robustness
  • More complicated UI.
  • BIM slows down design
  • Good visualization is hard to get
Without free form modeling, it’s hard to represent what you are trying to build. Further, said Flaherty, if you have to switch between 2D and 3D there is a lot more to deal with.

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